“Vivien, relax. The house is clean even by my nose and standards,” said Andrew as he pulled her into a hug. “I’ll finish up the food and you go take a shower.”
“Are you sure? I’m nervous. You’ll understand when they get here.”
“I’m sure. I can handle salad, bread and cheese. I excelled at laying out cookies on a platter at
15. Go shower,” he said. “They’re due in thirty minutes.”
Vivien kissed him and ran upstairs to shower. They’d cleaned every trace of her out of the downstairs. She knew her parents. Dropping her dirty clothes into the basket, she stepped into the shower. The hot water felt good and did help settle her down. Or was it the lavender body wash Andrew had bought her? She didn’t care. After she stepped out of the shower, she dried the walls and dropped the towel in with the other dirty clothes.
Fifteen minutes later, she was downstairs, wearing her favorite green dress and a pair of flats. She looked towards the kitchen where heavenly smells were wafting out into the dining room.
“What are you baking?”
“Cookies. Bitty brought the dough by last night and put it in the fridge. All I had to do was bake. They are almost ready,” he said checking on them. He closed the door of the oven after pulling the cookies out. “Honey, oatmeal raisin.”
Vivien smiled. Her parents had jumped on the Gluten Free bandwagon, so now everything they ate had to be wheat free. She watched Andrew slide the cookies off onto a plate and then quickly wash the pan and spatula.
“Put these next to the salad fixings and then go sit down. I’ll get cleaned up and then we can wait in horrid anticipation.” He smiled as he kissed her and headed for his bedroom.
“Andrew!” she said shaking her head. Her parents really did worry her and yet Andrew’s teasing was helping. She walked out to the front porch and looked around. Yard, clean. Sidewalk, swept. Flowerbeds, watered. Then she noticed the dog dishes. Clean water and a small amount of food. Puzzled, she walked back into the house.
“Andrew, why are there dog dishes on one side of the porch?”
“Just in case they smell ‘dog’. Or, if they get too aggravating, I can just shift and scare them,” he teased.
“Don’t You Dare!”
“What? Shift? Annoy them? Or scare them?” he asked walking back into the living room. He was dressed in what she thought of as ‘shop clothes’. A nice shirt, decent trousers, leather shoes and a bit of silver jewelry. It was the kind of thing he’d wear to work.
“Just… just behave okay?” she asked.
“Alright. They’re here,” he said and walked back towards the kitchen.
“What?” was as far as she got when the doorbell rang. She turned and opened the door to find her parents standing there.
“Oh Vivien! So good to see you!” her mom gushed as she enveloped Vivien in a hug. Her dad hugged her too and smiled.
“Please come in,” Vivien said. “I’ve got lunch ready so we can eat when you’re ready.” Vivien stepped aside so that they could enter the house.
“Oh I don’t want to eat right yet, we just got here. I want to see your apartment and then meet your landlord,” said her mom.
“Yes. We want to meet who are little girl is living with,” said Vivien’s dad.
“Dad, I’m 30, and Andrew is a gentleman. Do you want to tour the house or meet Andrew first?” Vivien said as they walked into the living room.
“Show us your apartment. I noticed that there isn’t a separate entrance,” said her dad.
“No, there isn’t. Just the stairwell, but it works. We share the kitchen and dining room,” said Vivien as she took them to the stairwell. They headed upstairs. Her dad stopped on the squeaky step and bounced.
“This stair needs fixed. Can’t have you falling,” he stated.
“I’ll let Andrew know,” said Vivien, wondering if she shouldn’t have met them at the park. Once upstairs, she showed them her ‘living room’, the office, her bedroom and the bathroom.
“Smells a bit damp in here,” her mom said as they entered the bathroom.
“I just showered Mom.”
“Well, you probably should have hung up your towels, and not tossed them in the hamper. They’ll mold that way.”
“Mom, the climate is much drier here. They won’t mold before I wash them tomorrow,” said Vivien.
“Watch your tone Viv. Your mother was just trying to give you good advice.” snapped her dad who’d been trying to find fault with the whole upper floor. So far the step was the only issue.
“Yes Dad. It’s just that this isn’t the Pacific Northwest. We’re at a much higher altitude and the weather is drier. I wasn’t arguing, just stating fact.”
“Fine. You seem to have kept this place clean. Shall we see the downstairs?” he said dismissing her.
“Sure. I’ll go ahead and find Andrew,” said Vivien. She headed downstairs quickly and found Andrew sitting down in the living room. She rolled her eyes and he just nodded and pointed at his ears. It didn’t take much to figure out that he’d heard everything they’d said.
Andrew put down his book and stood up when Vivien’s parents entered the living room. “Hello, I’m Andrew Davis,”
“I’m Roger Sunbery and this is my wife Emma,” said Roger. He shook Andrew’s hand, and was surprised by his grip. “Fine hand you have there.”
“I’m a silversmith by trade, but I started life as a ranch hand in Calgary. Never lost the grip,” said Andrew. He then held out his hand to shake Emma’s. It was as light a touch as he could manage and still grip her hand.
“It’s very kind of you to rent your upstairs to our daughter,” said Emma.
“Oh, no trouble. It was fortuitous for both of us,” said Andrew as he gestured for everyone to sit.
“How is that?” asked Roger.
“Well, my last tenant had moved out three months ago. Your daughter walked into my shop in the mall and was chatting with my assistant, Becky. Housing came up and Becky mentioned that I had a place. Perfect timing. I of course checked her references and found things in order,” said Andrew.
“Even though she’s just lost her job?” Emma asked.
“Even so. I am certain that Vivien will find work before her funds run out,” Andrew replied.
Roger nodded and gave Vivien a look that spoke volumes. He was about to start in on questioning Vivien about her job search from the look.
“Vivien, shall we serve lunch? I have an appointment in an hour and would like to eat,” said Andrew.
“Oh, yes. Mom, Dad, you must be hungry. I have a salad, hummus, and Andrew made cookies.”
Emma gave Andrew a look of astonishment. “Well, we won’t be able to eat them. We don’t eat gluten anymore.”
“That was taken into consideration. The sweetener is honey, the ingredients are all certified organic, and the oats and flour are gluten free,” Andrew stated. The wolf inside was beginning to curl his lip.
“Oh, then we will try them,” Emma said.
“I set everything up in the dining room,” Vivien said as she led the way. She knew that her parents were trying to peer into other parts of the house. Andrew had left some doors open and closed others. On the sideboard were plates, the salads covered with net, dressings, hummus, gluten free crackers, and of course the cookies. On the table were pitchers of green tea and ice water. Everyone helped themselves to the food and sat down.
“So, you’re a silversmith?” Emma asked again. “I didn’t think that was a very lucrative business any more. Plus with the economy, who has money to spend on jewelry?”
“You’d be surprised. I do bespoke work. Our low end line is between $20 and $50. The high end line averages $350. The mall is older, well established and the rents are low. I frequently clear three times my expenses per month,” stated Andrew.
“Bespoke?” asked Roger with a puzzled look on his face. It was clear that he expected Andrew to be some sort of hippy junk dealer.
“Bespoke means custom work, Dad,” Vivien explained.
“Ah. And how long have you been doing this?” Roger asked.
“Since I was 14. My father was a silversmith as well. I inherited the family business when my older brother passed on and my father retired,” Andrew answered.
“Oh, that must have been very difficult for you,” Emma said sympathetically.
“It was for a while, yet I’d been working in the foundry since I was five. Now, what do you do for business?” Andrew asked turning the questions back on the Sunbery’s.
Lunch finished up with cookies and more iced tea. Emma asked for the recipe, which Andrew provided in beautiful copperplate script on Silver Lode letter head. As they carried the remains of lunch to the kitchen, Andrew excused himself.
“Vivien, don’t forget that Fenris will be back from the groomer’s around three,” he said as he departed. He shook Roger’s hand and patted Emma’s as he said his goodbyes.
“Alright,” she said wondering what in the world he was up to. It was clear that her parents were getting on his nerves. They’d tromped all over hers.
Once the dishes had been loaded into the dishwasher, Vivien and her parents sat in the downstairs living room. The conversation shifted to how well Eric, her brother was doing, how prosperous Burien, Washington was and why Vivien hadn’t moved home once she’d lost her job.
“Mom, I didn’t want to move home. I’m 30, and living at home is not what I want.”
“Well, it would certainly be better than paying rent to Andrew. He seems a nice man, but he’s what… twenty-five years older than you? Why isn’t he married? What’s wrong with him that he doesn’t have a family or children?” Emma started. “Is he gay?”
“I like living here. I like this town, and up until a few weeks ago, I had a job. Andrew is 53. He has a good job. As for his private life, I know he took care of his mother for some time, has had a number of relationships with women and one of his ex’s is a good friend of mine,” Vivien said trying to keep an even tone. “Andrew, hurry up!”
“Okay, so he’s 22 years older than you. You’re still young enough to catch someone your age,” said Emma.
“Mom! Stay out of my relationships.”
“I saw the way he looked at you,” Emma said.
“Probably worried that he’d offend you. Andrew knew I was anxious about your visit. That I wanted everything to be right. If I hadn’t had his help, I’d wouldn’t have known what to have for lunch. He even gave up meat today for you. I think he ate more veggies than I’ve ever seen him eat in one setting,” said Vivien.
“Viv, there is no need to take that tone with your mother,” Roger said.
“Vivien, where is the bathroom?” Emma asked.
“Upstairs, second door on the left.”
“No, the one downstairs. I really need to go. Too much tea,” she said smiling.
“Down the hall from the dining room. First door on the right,” said Vivien. “Too much info as usual! Oh, and a bad excuse to sneak around.”
Emma smiled and headed towards the bathroom. Vivien and Roger sat in silence for nearly five minutes.
“Hello? I’ve brought Fenris!” called a voice from the front door.
“Just a second,” said Vivien. “Thank God!” She walked to the front door to find Bitty standing there with ‘Fenris’ on a leash with a rather elaborate collar and tags clanking as he wagged his tail. Bitty smiled, handed over the leash and bounced down the stairs. Vivien walked back in to the living room with Fenris.
“That’s a…an… a wolfhound?” asked Roger.
“Yes. Some sort of cross breed. I think Andrew called him a Saarloos wolfhound,” said Vivien. She’d looked up all the wolf hounds she could to see if one matched Andrew. The Saarloos’ had been the closest. Vivien sat down and Fenris sat next to her.
“Seems to be obedient,” observed Roger.
“For the most part. He’s very protective. I was very glad he took to me so well when I first met him.”
“That’s a dog?” gasped Emma from the dining room.
“Yes, his name is Fenris. Come meet him,” said Vivien. She’d never seen her mom cowed by an animal before.
Emma walked over slowly and sat next to her husband. Fenris stood up, stretched and walked over to the two. He sniffed them and then wagged his tail. Then he walked back over to Vivien and sat at her feet.
“Yes, he is well mannered. Now, are you expected to take care of the dog when Andrew isn’t here?” asked Roger.
“No, not usually. I take him to the park sometimes and play Frisbee with him,” said Vivien. At the word Frisbee, Fenris’ tail thumped the floor. “Maybe later Fen.”
Fenris stopped wagging his tail as if he really understood her. “Boof?”
“And what is your rent?” asked Roger.
“$500 a month, and that includes utilities and Internet. And before you ask, we share the kitchen, cooking and cleaning.”
“Well, as long as you aren’t expected to do anything else,” Emma said with a tone that suggested improper behavior. Fenris curled his lip and a low rumble vibrated Vivien’s foot.
“What are you on about Mom?”
“You know. Men of that age…” said Emma.
“She’s trying to make sure you aren’t stuck in some sexual slavery just so that you have a roof over your head,” Roger said.
“Oh good grief! This is Henry all over again isn’t it? You hated him the second you met him. At least you didn’t call Andrew an ass to his face!”
“Viv, settle down,” said Roger.
Fenris growled. “Rrrrooff!”
“Vivien, would you please take that… that dog out of here?” Emma said going a little white around the eyes.
Vivien rolled her eyes, and took Fenris by the leash towards the back yard. She unclipped the leash and watched as he ran outside. She dropped the leash on the table and sat back down with her parents.
“Now before you slander a man who isn’t here to defend himself, understand that he is my friend. You have no right to think he’s some kind of pervert or sexual deviant. I don’t even get where you can dredge up such ideas!” said Vivien.
“We’re your parents and want what is best for you. We could have you moved out and back in Burien in two days,” said Roger.
“Dad, no. I am not moving home. I like Andrew, and he has been nothing but a gentleman to me. I do not understand why or even how you could be so mean spirited. Was he too nice? Were his cookies too good? Or were you just determined to hate him regardlessly?” Vivien asked.
“Well, um… we tried to do a background check on him and even Eric couldn’t find anything on him before 1997. It was like he didn’t exist,” admitted Emma.
Vivien shook her head. “Did it ever occur to you that he might not be American? He was born in Canada! He told you he was from Calgary. Did it not sink in? I can’t believe you had Eric trying to spy on him. Next thing I know, you’ll be telling me he’s a vampire or a werewolf!”
“Well, he does associate with that company that sued your newspaper for defamation,” Roger chimed in.
“Yeah! So what! That company fixes my computer. Ginny is the CFO for the company. Meg and Luc are friends of mine. Is there some reason you always have to pick my life apart? Why can’t you just be happy for me? Let me live my own life?”
“Now Vivvie, settle down,” said Emma patronizingly.
“No. I am not going to settle down. I have had enough of you treating me like I’m a child. I love you both, but I think it would be best if you’d leave. I’ll call you when I’m not so peeved with your childish behavior.”
“Vivvie!” Emma said. This was not how Roger said this would work out. He’d promised that Vivien would see reason and finally come home with them. She turned to Roger with a pleading look.
“Viv, I’m sorry it’s come to this. We’ll leave and I hope you come to your senses. You have our cell phone numbers,” he said and stood up to leave.
Emma and Vivien stood up as well. Emma put the recipe on the coffee table as if it would explode and picked up her handbag. Vivien walked them to the door, and out onto the porch. Emma and Roger got to their car just as Fenris rounded the house. Emma gasped and literally dove into the Saab. Roger got in quickly too and drove off.
Fenris leaned up against Vivien and crooned. “Arrrroooh, rrrhoo.”
“I’m okay. A little upset, but okay. You want to go to the park? Play Frisbee?” she asked. Fenris took one look at her and dived for the porch. He came back with a well chewed Frisbee.